Redistricting Roundup: Both parties express disdain with maps

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October 14, 2011

Edited by Geoff Pallay

Fallout continued this week over the congressional redistricting proposal released October 3 by the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee in Maryland. Democrats and Republicans have both been up in arms over the proposal. Democrats are attempting to draw the lines in order to pick up a seventh congressional seat, which Republicans have called it nothing more than gerrymandering. Some Democrats, meanwhile, are angered by how the plan shifts around minority voters, diluting their voting power.

Republican state Delegate Michael Hough announced on Wednesday that he will be introducing “The Maryland Fair Representation Congressional Plan” during the special session slated to get under way on Monday. The plan includes three minority districts, echoing the desires of the Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee, a new Detroit-based organization that threatened legal action if the governor approves the committee's proposal as it stands. A spokeswoman for House Speaker Michael Busch (D) said today that all proposals, not just the governor's, will receive a hearing during the special session. Thus far, Hough has been the only one to come forth with an alternative plan. Members of Maryland’s tea party movement also jumped into the fray, announcing that they will be holding a rally against the proposed plan on October 18.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) formally announced that the special session on redistricting would begin on October 17, when he will submit his revised congressional plan to the General Assembly.

State news

Alaska

On October 11, the US Department of Justice approved Alaska's legislative redistricting plan. However, the plan must still survive a pending legal challenge in state court. In August, the Redistricting Board announced that it would defend the districts at issue in the lawsuit on the basis of Voting Rights Act requirements.

Arizona

The draft Arizona state legislative map as passed on October 10, 2011.

One week after the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission approved a draft Congressional map, the 5 members voted 4-1 in favor of a draft state legislative map.

In a twist from last week’s reaction, this time it is the Democratic Party that feels slighted by the draft map. After a week full of GOP leaders decrying the Congressional map, Democratic leaders cried foul this week about the state's 30 legislative districts. Based on initial analysis, Republicans would have a voter registration edge in 18 of the 30 districts. Additionally, only 3 to 8 districts would be considered competitive.

Luis Heredia, Executive Director of the Arizona Democratic Party, said the commission should have created more districts that are competitive.

The new districts create several situations where incumbents are thrown into the same district. Notably, State Senate President Russell Pearce (R) would be in the same district as State Senator Rich Crandall (R). Pearce -- who is facing a recall election on November 8 against fellow Republican Jerry Lewis -- has said he intends to run again in 2012.

A 30-day comment period began on October 11, 2011. A total of 26 hearings will be held. Among the initial public reaction:

  • Some Flagstaff residents want to be moved into District 6 as opposed to being in District 7 -- which is shared with the Navajo Nation.

California

Attorneys for the California Citizens Redistricting Commission requested that the California Supreme Court toss out lawsuits related to the new maps. The commission's response to the suits can be found here.

Colorado

The trial over Colorado’s congressional districts got underway on Tuesday. Chief Judge Robert Hyatt will consider proposed maps from Democrats and Republicans as well as from the Latino Forum and Colorado Hispanic Bar Association, the city of Aurora, Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut and Douglas County. The issue ended up in court following the failure of the Legislature to agree to new lines during the regular session earlier this year. Democrats are pushing for more competitive districts, arguing that the state has significantly changed since lines were drawn 10 years ago. Republicans insist that Democrats are moving 1.5 million residents into new districts simply to pick up additional congressional seats. The trial is expected to last approximately two weeks.

Quote of the Week
""The first time I saw this map, I thought it was one of the rejected maps. It begins to look like we had a second objective -- a political objective of individuals."[1]

-- Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich, commenting on the Maryland Congressional Map proposed by the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee

Georgia

As part of its suit for pre-clearance in the US District Court for DC, Georgia is challenging the part of the Voting Rights Act that requires states with a history of discrimination to get new maps and election laws pre-cleared by the Department of Justice or the DC District Court. Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens argues that the state is being unfairly targeted based on discrimination that no longer exists. However, House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) said that electoral discrimination is still a problem in the state.

Hawaii

On Monday, state Senator Malama Solomon and several other Democrats filed suit, challenging the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission’s decision to include most of the state's non-resident population in its redistricting counts. In past redistricting efforts, the state has excluded non-resident military and student populations. Their inclusion in 2011 redistricting calculations boosted the population of Oahu and deprived the Big Island of additional representation. The Commission argues that it excluded all the non-residents that it could given vague census data.

  • A copy of the petition can be found here.
Redistricting Facts
Total States with Lawsuits filed: 28
Next state deadline? South Dakota
October 24, 2011
Maps submitted for vote: 83 out of 142 (58.4%)** AK (2), AL (1), AR (3), AZ (3), CA (3), CO (2), DE (2), GA (3), HI (3), IA (3), IL (3), IN (3), LA (3), ME (1), MI (3), MN (3), MO (1), MS (2), NC (3), NE (2), NJ (2), NM (3), NV (3), OH (3), OK (3), OR (3), SC (3), TX (3), VA (3), WI (3), WV (3)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 20 (AR, LA, IA, MO, IN, NE, NC, OK, AL, IL, TX, OR, SC, MI, WI, CA, GA, WV, ME, HI)
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 18 (AK, IL, IN, IA, LA, NE, NJ, NC, OK, OR, TX, VA, AR, WI, CA, GA, WV, HI)
**With 50 states, there are 142 possible maps. 50 State Senate, 49 State House (No House in Nebraska), and 43 Congressional (7 states have 1 seat)

Missouri

The Missouri Attorney General's office has asked the court to dismiss a lawsuit against the state’s Congressional redistricting plan. The AG's filing contends that plaintiffs have failed to show that lawmakers ignored the compactness criterion or lacked a rational basis for drawing districts as they did.

In other news, the judicial panel tasked with redrawing Missouri’s legislative districts heard public testimony Thursday at a hearing in Jefferson City. The panel, which consists of six appeals court judges, also heard testimony from lawmakers involved in the deadlocked redistricting commissions. The judicial panel must complete maps by mid-December.

Nevada

This week the three-member special masters panel held hearings regarding the drawing of new districts. Democratic Party lawyers argued that Nevada has a history of electing Hispanics -- pointing for instance to current Governor Brian Sandoval (R), and thus there is less of a requirement to draw strict majority-minority districts to ensure minorities have a chance at election. Meanwhile, GOP attorneys testified that majority-minority districts are needed because of white voter bias.

The main issue of disagreement centers around whether one of the four Congressional districts -- and as many as 12 of the 63 state legislative districts -- should be majority-minority. Hispanics make up 26 percent of Nevadans based on the 2010 Census.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, special master Tom Sheets asked the two parties to resolve their differences, suggesting that that was a better option than having the panel draw the new maps. Nevada State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford (D) announced this week that he would not recuse himself from the map-drawing process should the legislature be called into special session. Horsford is running for election to the U.S. House in 2012, and could therefore have his campaign impacted by the ultimate makeup of the districts.

New Mexico

Last Friday, Governor Susana Martinez (R) officially vetoed the state legislative maps, sending the issue to the courts. This week, the New Mexico Supreme Court consolidated the redistricting lawsuits and named a retired judge to preside over the case. All lawsuits going forward will be consolidated into the case as well, which will be handled by retired judge, James Hall.

North Dakota

On October 12, the Interim Legislative Redistricting Committee approved new maps for North Dakota's 47 legislative districts. The plan cuts rural districts and shifts representation toward urban areas, like Fargo and Bismark. Advocates for rural areas had asked for an increase in the total number of districts to prevent significant changes to rural districts. However, the committee decided to retain a 47-district plan. Due to population shifts, a number of legislators were drawn into the same districts. Most significantly, the plan pairs Senate Democratic Leader Ryan Taylor with former leader David O'Connell (D). In addition, the Senate plan would pair Senators Joe Miller (R) and Curtis Olafson (R). In the House, the plan draws four Republicans into one district, and three Republicans and one Democrat into another. The full legislature will take up the plans in a November 7 special session.

Oklahoma

The District Court of Oklahoma County has rejected the redistricting lawsuit filed by Senator Jim Wilson (D). The court found that the issue had already been settled by the Oklahoma Supreme Court despite the high court's recommendation that the issue be brought before a state district court. Wilson plans to file an immediate appeal, returning the issue to the Supreme Court.

Ohio

This Week's Redistricting Highlight
Earlier this week the Washington State Redistricting Commission announced it would be holding a special meeting today in order to reduce the number of proposed maps for legislative districts from four to two, leaving them with one Democratic proposal and one Republican. It was unclear when they would reduce the congressional proposals down to two. That same day ended the public comment period. All told, the commission reported receiving 239 unique comments from over 686 people during the month-long period. The panel has a legal deadline of January 1, 2012 to agree to new districts, but is aiming to be done by early November.

On October 12, the Ohio Secretary of State rejected preliminary signatures for a referendum against Ohio's congressional redistricting plan. Although proponents had more than enough signatures to qualify for statewide circulation, the preliminary petition was rejected because of an appropriation within the redistricting bill. Democratic officials expected the decision and argue that the move will give their pending legal challenge further merit. On September 28, Ohio Democrats filed suit in the Ohio Supreme Court to affirm their right to challenge the map despite a $2.75 million appropriation attached to the bill. The Ohio Constitution does not permit veto referendums against appropriations bills, but the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that attaching a statute to an appropriations bill does necessarily exempt that statute.

  • The Secretary of State's press release can be found here.

West Virginia

On Thursday, attorney and former congressional candidate Thornton Cooper filed the first lawsuit against West Virginia’s House redistricting plan. Cooper contends that the current map violates the West Virginia Constitution by failing to provide equal representation. He suggests that the court should overturn the map and order the legislature to draw a constitutional map by the end of the year. If the deadline is not met, argues Cooper, the court should impose his own plan, which contains 100 single-member districts. Several lawsuits are expected against the plan.

Wyoming

According to an opinion from Wyoming Attorney General Greg Phillips, lawmakers must decide whether senators up for election in 2014 will be required to run earlier as a result of state redistricting. Wyoming's 30 senators run for staggered four-year terms with 15 senators running for election every two years. In 1992, all 30 senators ran, but this immediately followed the elimination of county-based Senate districts. In 2002, only those up for election were forced to run. State redistricting leaders sought the AG's opinion and now suggest that their decision will largely depend on how much district lines must change.

See also



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